AUSTIN (KXAN) -
Years of near record-low inflows into the Highland lakes have left the enormous reservoirs looking more like the Highland ponds.
Lake Buchanan is feeling the effects of the drought more than ever.
"It's been 18 straight months that [the Lake Buchanan level] has been below 1,000 feet MSL," water availability expert Dr. Jordan Furnans said. "And that has never happened before in the history of Lake Buchanan."
But in the midst of this four-year drought, during which Camp Mabry has accumulated a 33-inch rainfall deficit, early January brought widespread, beneficial rainfall to the region.
"We got a good soaking," Furnans said. "A good three inches of rainfall pretty much over the entire Lake Travis watershed."
The slow, soaking rains at the beginning of January were exactly what the area needed. But the dry, thirsty ground brought on by months of inconsistent rainfall stole much of that water instead of letting it run off into the lakes.
"And that's what we're seeing in 2011 all the way to now, is a decent soaking followed by many months of dryness," Furnans said. "And it's the many months of dryness that hurts the lake levels."
That leaves many asking just what it would take to fill the Highland lakes.
"[We] need a rain event, and then it can be dry for a few days, and then have another rain event," Furnans said. "And that second rain event would cause a lot more of its water to go into the lakes because the ground was already full with the water from the first rain event."
According to Furnans' predictions, that second rain event would have to bring about seven-and-a-half inches in order to fill the lakes.
"It's all up to mother nature," Furnans said. "If it rains, then we'll be lucky and the lake levels will go up. But if it doesn't, and all indications point like it's not going to, things are not going to look better than they are right now."